Buying an Electric Scooter: Key Considerations
Not every electric scooter is for everyone, that’s a fact. When looking for an adult electric scooter for yourself, you have to narrow the selection according to your personal needs and taste. You need to make sure that your ride matches your route. Do you enjoy buzzing down the streets while standing on the deck, or do you prefer to sit down while cruising? How portable does it need to be? Do you need a scooter that you can easily fold and carry around when needed, or you are willing to sacrifice portability for superior performance? Here are some key factors you should consider to find what’s right for you.
Electric motors are rated in Watts, which is basically their power consumption. The number of watts does not accurately represent the motor’s efficiency. However, more power usually means better acceleration, faster top speed, and better hill climbing ability.
Electric scooter motors start at 250W, for budget scooters, to 500W for mid-range commuter scooters, and to over 2000W of combined power for dual motor scooters. Extreme performance scooters, like Dualtron Thunder, Wolf Warrior King or Zero 11X boast several kilowatts of motor power. For an average daily commute or running errands, this amount of motor power is unnecessary. But if you need a scooter that can go fast and handle hills, you need to look for something with more Watts in its hubs.
Top speed and acceleration
Top speed is only a factor if you are looking for top-performance scooters. Most of the scooters can reach the top speed of 15mph, which is much faster than walking, but still fine for the bike lanes and foot paths. If your scooter is allowed on the streets, have in mind that for most city streets the limit is 10-25mph, increasing to 35 mph only in select, limited cases.
Why do we need scooters that can go over 40mph, even over 60mph in some cases? Well, the fact that your scooter can reach those speeds does not mean that you should max it out. The greater higher speed comes from the higher motor power, but this also comes with another important benefit – better acceleration. It takes a lot of power to get a scooter up to speed quickly, and you need a powerful motor to do that.
Having a motor with high top speed means that you will be mostly using it well below max output, which is good for the motor lifespan. This also means that you will be able to power up hills without too much strain on the motors and be able to accelerate quickly when you need to.
Take a look at some of the fastest electric scooters at the moment, with insane top speeds intended for track only:
Battery and charging
A battery is for an electric scooter what a fuel tank is on a gas-powered one. It stores the energy used by the motor and all the other electric components. Most scooters today come with rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which are superior in many areas compared to the alternatives. There are still some that come with SLA batteries, though they are outdated.
The most common specs listed for the electric scooter battery are its voltage, and capacity, usually in Amp hours. According to these two pieces of data you can calculate battery capacity in Watt hours, which measure amounts of energy for a specific period of time.
More energy capacity means higher battery Wh, which translates to longer electric scooter range, regarding the motor size. Most commuter scooters have between 250 and 700 watt hours. Extreme performance scooters’ capacity reaches into the thousands of watt hours and delivers ranges of up to 60 miles.
Battery capacity is important for the range, but there are many factors that affect the distance you will be able to travel on a full charge, including motor power, rider weight, weather, average speed and more. This means that all the data about the scooter range are, more or less, just an estimate. We base our scooter reviews on the data we get from testing the scooter, but also on the real-life input from riders when we are unable to do the proper testing ourselves. Our goal is to offer you a realistic range evaluation of each scooter we review.
Most of the manufacturers will list only the maximum range, which can be attained only in ideal conditions, so be wary. The rule of thumb in the e-scooter community is to take the range advertised by the manufacturer and divide it by two. It is always better to underestimate the range than to end up with a drained battery halfway.
Overall build quality and reliability
How the scooter looks is important, but what the scooter is made of should be much more important. When looking for a new scooter you should pay attention to the materials used, as well as the overall quality of manufacturing. Are there any pain points, plastic parts or overall poor engineering solutions? These are the things that are not obvious from looking at the scooter. That is why we do our best to put each model through rigorous testing.
A good set of brakes means safe riding. E-scooters have at least one braking system, almost all of them have electronic brakes, and many have a mechanical braking system in addition to that. Brakes can be on the front wheel, rear wheel, or in the best case, on both.
Mechanical brakes include disc brakes, drum brakes, and foot brakes. Disc brakes are the industry standard and they are the safest option. They can be hydraulic, semi-hydraulic and cable operated. The only downside of disc brakes is that they require some maintenance. Drum brakes are enclosed inside the wheel, with pads that push outward and create friction against the braking surface. They are protected from the environment, but can also overheat which affects their effectiveness. The simplest form of mechanical brakes is the good old foot brake. This type of brake is only appropriate for electric scooters with small wheels that do not go faster than 15mph.
Suspension is what makes or breaks your ride (and your back). It helps to improve the ride quality, reduce the impact of bumps on the road and make braking, accelerating and handling smoother and safer. For adventure and off-road use, high-quality suspension and tires are the key to ensuring a smooth and comfortable ride. For those planning longer commutes on roads, ensuring it has adequate suspension is also important since potholes and bumps in the road can be very uncomfortable with bad suspension.
Except for budget scooters, all e-scooters have some kind of suspension. It is either a spring, piston (hydraulic or air) or rubber suspension. The highest quality models combine spring and piston suspension – this is called coil-over-hydraulic or coil-over-air suspension.
Wheels and tire size
The most basic scooters have small, 8” rubber wheels made for riding on flat ground. These are low-maintenance and efficient, but do not offer the ride quality that 10” pneumatic tires do. The pneumatic tires give more cushioning but can be punctured. 10 inches is a standard in e-scooters, but if you need a scooter that can handle speed bumps, potholes, curbs and off-road terrain, look for the one with bigger tires and enhanced ground clearance. Also the wider the tire, the more grip it has. Those extra wide tires on fat tire scooters are a completely different story though. Scooters with fat tires may not be as efficient, but they are a lot of fun.
Weight and portability
If you need a scooter that you need to carry on a regular basis, weight and folding mechanisms are a significant consideration. Anything heavier than 35 pounds can be difficult to carry, especially for long periods of time. Problem is that the weight of the scooter mostly depends on the battery, but so does the range. Lightweight scooters, like the Gotrax XR weigh around 30lbs, but they are also somewhat limited in range. Some scooters, like the Glion Dolly, offer the option to be rolled around, which can be helpful. Still, if you need to carry your scooter up the stairs, the weight and the dimensions of the scooter are definitely something that you should look into.
The secret of finding the perfect portable commuter scooter lies in finding the golden balance between the expected range, and the weight you are comfortable hauling around. Is carrying your scooter something you would have to do regularly? Do you need a scooter that fits the trunk of your car? Do you plan to store your scooter inside (in the apartment, or a workplace)? Answering these questions will help you with the desired weight and size range of your electric scooter.
Maximum load is the weight limit that the electric scooter can support. Most of the commuter scooters’ limit ranges between 220 and 265lbs. This is good enough for the average adult, but if you weigh more, or need to carry a lot of weight with you, it is a good idea to look at scooters that are designed for heavier adults, as some of them can carry well over 300lbs with ease.
Exceeding your scooter’s max load limit does not mean that it will crumble or snap in half on the spot, but you will notice a serious decline in performance. To handle more weight, a scooter needs more motor power, so you should consider models with under 500W of motor power, only if you know that the scooter will carry no more than 220 pounds.
An electric scooter is a unit made of many parts. Not all of them are essential to keep the scooter running, but they can be useful, or nice to have in the least.
Cockpit and Display
Small e-scooters usually have only a small LCD display that shows basic information, like speed and battery level, while more complex models with more speed modes and ride adjustments have combined control unit, usually QS-S4 or EYE3 type of display. Recently, there are more high-performance models with proper dashboard, like the Apollo Phantom or Nami BURN-E.
E-scooter lights are essential for any riders using their scooter at night as they not only help you see where you’re going but also ensure you are visible to others around you. Most scooters standardly come with an LED headlight and taillight. Some premium scooters. like the Apollo Phantom, have comprehensive lighting set, including bright headlight, brake lights, deck lights and turn signals.
IP rating tells you how resistant an electric scooter is to dust and water. It consists of two numbers, the second one telling the level of scooter’s water resistance. The most waterproof scooter at the moment is the EMOVE Cruiser with the IP67 rating, which covers anything except submerging it in water.
With the exception of WideWheel and maybe a few others, e-scooters cannot stand upright on their own. Kickstand sounds like a trivial thing, but just try to imagine your beloved scooter falling over, and you’ll realize why it’s important. Good thing is that even if the out-of-the-box kickstand is not the best, you can easily switch it for a better one.
Warranty and customer support
Unless you order your new scooter from a suspiciously cheap seller on AliExpress, most of the distributors offer some kind of warranty. When reviewing the scooter, we always take a look into the warranty length of term and inclusions. It is important to check whether the scooter comes with a warranty for the whole scooter, its components, and maintenance.
Alongside warranty, dedicated customer support is a huge plus. Electric scooters are complex, so you will probably have questions and concerns about your new ride. Not all distributors offer post-purchase support, so make sure that you take this into account if the technical support is what is important to you.
Price and your budget
To put it simply: the more expensive a scooter is, the better it gets. However, as much as you think those high-end scooters that cost as much as a brand new car, are the absolute best you can get, the truth is many riders just don’t need the insane amount of power. Different scooter categories come with different price ranges. You can get an adequate entry-level scooter for under $500, a solid commuter scooter for under $1000, and for $3000 you can get a high-performance scooter that will blow you away.
Pick a scooter category that fulfils your needs and focus on the value. Remember that buying an electric scooter is an awesome investment that will be worthwhile in the long run.